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Starz's Sie touts progress of cablers in Harvard speech

NEW YORK — Within the next decade, the major studios will bypass the multiplexes and premiere their movies on cable and satellite pay per view. So says John Sie, the cable TV pioneer and founder-chairman of John Malone’s Starz Encore Group.

Speaking at a Harvard Business School media conference Thursday, Sie said that revenues of theatrical movies on cable and satellite — about $4 billion last year — are rapidly gaining on the dollars generated by moviehouses, which came in at $5 billion.

That balance will soon shift in favor of cable/satellite, he predicted, because high-definition TV sets have given millions of people “a theater-like experience in their homes.”

The cost of HD TV sets is falling, Sie said, forecasting that 50 million homes — about 50% of U.S. TV households — will have bought HD by the end of the next decade.

According to Sie, “If a major studio can debut a film at a price of $19.95, about what it costs two people to go to the theater, and attract 20% of HD homes to watch, that would generate $200 million in revenue on the opening day — a blockbuster number in anybody’s book.”

With those numbers, he continued, “Big films will debut in the home and create the buzz for their theatrical releases rather than the other way around.”

Sie said people shouldn’t sell their stock in the theater chains. Movie exhibitors won’t disappear from the corporate landscape, he concluded, because “millions of Americans still love the experience of getting out of the house and going to a theater and always will.”

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